Southern Pines, N.C. — The loss of his sight plunged a Southern Pines man into a funk until he realized how he could help children in a similar situation.
At the age of 64, Bob Baillie needed open heart surgery. A complication stole his sight.
"I lost the blood supply to my eyes and, anyway, somebody turned the lights out," Baillie said. "All of a sudden I find myself in total darkness. And you don't know which was is up."
Baillie tried a cane, then a guide dog, but his mood plummeted. "You either curl up in a corner and, I guess, wait to die, or you find something to do," he said. Baillie chose the latter.
He counted his blessings, then looked at his loss from another perspective. "I was 64 when I went blind, and I had a whole life of vision," he said.
When he realized there was no national organization to provide guide dogs for the roughly 85,000 children who can't see, he decided to start one himself.
Baillie's MIRA Foundation USA (Mira is Spanish for look) is an offshoot of the Canadian organization that provided Baillie with his dog, D.J. So far, he's provided companion service animals to 12 kids. Another eight will meet their dogs this weekend.
"There's very few people that can actually say you changed the lives of so many children," he said. "It's a real, warm fuzzy feeling, believe me. It really is."
MIRA Foundation USA provides dogs for children ages 11 to 17 and is completely supported by donations.